On Being a Christian Parent

When I was younger, I was always looking for the one sport I would be good at without really trying.

I still haven’t found it.

Some of us are like that with raising children. We want to be good at it. We just don’t really want to work at it. As Christians however, that kind of attitude is foolish. For one thing being a parent is too important not to work at. For another, I guarantee you, you won’t be a good Christian parent unless you do. We have to work hard at becoming better parents because being a Christian parent is not something any of us are naturally good at.

Now, I know that may be hard for you to believe at first. After all, some of you have laid back temperaments. And others of you have always been fairly good with kids. But there’s more to being a Christian parent than having your children like you. Having your children like you is obviously a big bonus. And it definitely helps you as you go about serving God as a mother or father. But it’s way too low a goal to be your primary one. It is certainly not a distinctive of Christian parenting anyway. There are plenty of unbelievers whose children adore them.

What we are after when we talk about being a Christian parent is applying what we believe about God and Jesus and the gospel to the way we actually raise our children. And that requires effort, because it’s not something that will happen if we just sit back and wait for it. When we become Christians, it is as if God opens our eyes to a whole new way of looking at the world around us. This way of thinking is completely different than the way we were taught to think about things before.

It is sometimes easy to forget that if you have been a Christian for a while.

But the gospel is a radical message and it represents a worldview that is radically different than the one we had as unbelievers. Just take a moment and think back to when you first became a Christian or at least when you were in the beginning stages. Think especially about some of the basic truths you started to understand and confess as a new believer. It’s not like you have to even go all that deep. Maybe creation. Or the fall. Or the incarnation. Maybe redemption. Or we can keep going, the future restoration. If you look at the way some people talk and act and feel and sing about some of these things you might go away thinking that those truths are really kind of ordinary but I think if you slow down and even just say them out loud to yourself, like I believe that, you’ll have to admit that even those like really basic truths that we believed all the way back when we first were converted, are actually quite shocking.

I believe that the way things started, there was nothing and then God spoke and there was something. An entire universe. From a word. I believe that all of the problems we have in this world ultimately go back to this man and this woman in a garden who refused to listen to what God said. I believe that God the Son became man and when I say he became man I don’t mean He just took on the form of a man, but that He somehow united Himself to human nature in such a way that we could say He was fully God and fully man and that He did all this not because He needed to but because He wanted to, and He wanted to so that these people who were hating him could enter into an eternal relationship with Him. I believe that God the Son became man and died like a criminal on a cross. Crucified. Because of what we did. And then he rose again. I believe that there is this day in the future when Jesus is going to return and bodies are going to start flying out of the grave and meet their souls in mid-air and be transformed somehow into these glorious bodies that are going to enjoy the presence of God forever in this perfect new world that God is going to create.

If you look back at what you received when you became a Christian, you weren’t just picking up some nice little tips on how to live a better life. It wasn’t like you went to this seminar and you thought the guy had some good ideas about how to be a better person or something like that. When you became a Christian you were basically receiving this shocking, alternative view of reality, this way of looking at what has gone on in this world and what is going on in this world and what is going to go on in this world that is completely different than the way you looked at it all before. It’s not like this nice little thing that you can put in a compartment over here and have it not affect every other area of your life. When you became a Christian, you were embracing this whole new of thinking and a big part of growing in your Christian life is learning to look at everything in light of this new reality.

Like being a mom or a dad.

That is a big part of how the spiritual growth process is supposed to work. We are supposed to go back to the gospel and ask how would I think and act and feel if the gospel were true? Because it is. And then we are to put off ways of thinking and acting and feeling that don’t match up with this reality and put on ways of thinking and acting and feeling that do.

The problem is (and this is a major problem), if you look at many people’s lives this whole process of renewing one’s life in light of the new reality that they have received in the gospel seems to have almost been aborted. Maybe not completely. But it is definitely stuck. They hear the gospel. They become Christians. They get all excited. They learn this whole new language. They have all these big God-words that they can throw around like sanctification and justification. They become more religious perhaps, but if you look real closely at their fundamental way of looking at reality, that hasn’t changed all that much.

It is not that they out and out reject what they said they embraced when they became Christians. Instead, it is like they try to meld or fuse the new view of reality that they have embraced as Christians with the old real view of reality that they used to live by before they became Christians.

And that’s honestly where a lot of people at when it comes to being parents.

They are parents and they are Christians. But they are not acting like Christian parents. The way they parent doesn’t match up with the gospel they have embraced, which is ultimately where change needs to happen if they are going to parent the way God wants them to.  Not with a couple of new tips on how to keep your children from crying, but rethinking parenting from the ground up, applying the gospel all the way down to how they react when their child is following them around the kitchen crying. 

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